Lately I've been worrying about the Middle East. The various power plays taking place there, especially by the Western powers, really concern me as they remind me so much of the build up to World War I, and I genuinely believe that we could be on the brink of a genuine global conflagration. However, sometimes when my mind begins to spin at the sheer horror of it all, I have to find less troubling affairs to occupy my time and that's when I turn to Adventure Time. That's right, it's not all philosophical discourse and Marxist sloganeering around here you know. Sometimes we watch cartoons too.
Let me explain. Every decade throws up a kids' cartoon that is equally enjoyed by adult viewers. Normally this is achieved by the use of surreal or subtle dark humour or sly references to adult activities, which fly over the heads of the average child viewer. Such shows often become cult viewing, especially amongst students (who tend to have the opportunity to catch kids TV). Examples of the sort of show I mean are; Betty Boop from the 1930s, Tex Avery's work for Warner Brother's Loony Tunes in the 1940s and 50s, Roobarb & Custard in the 1970s, Rocko's Modern Life in the 1990s and SpongeBob SquarePants in the 2000s. All of these shows are loved by children for their wacky humour and liberal use of of slapstick, but they also provide an extra layer of adult humour by employing double entendres, innuendos, and satirical social commentary, and this concept has been taken into maximun overdrive by the Adventure Time animation team.
Adventure Time was created by the American animator and musician Pendleton Ward and is produced by Frederator Studios for Cartoon Network. The main characters are Finn the human boy and Jake the dog, and their bizarre adventures take place in a surreal, post-apocalyptic landscape called 'the Land of Ooo'. According to Ward, the show takes place "after the bombs have fallen and magic has come back into the world". Many of the series' writers and storyboard artists have a background in indie comics and they are responsible for the weird, and often outright disturbing, characters and scenarios that unfold throughout the series. Ward has also stated that he wanted the show to contain occasional moments of sublime beauty such as that found in the glorious work of Hayao Miyazaki for the incomparable Studio Ghibli. Here's a clip of Finn and Jake.
As the clip above demonstrates, the show also contains many, many memorable lines which you'll find yourself quoting to confused 'outsiders'. Here's another clip:
The show also provides many short musical interludes and also contains the best ending theme song of any cartoon ever - the melancholy Island Song by Ashley Eriksson, which plays over the end credits.
As you can hear, Ashley's music is of the soft and sweet, lo-fi, indie-folk genre much beloved by this blog. As well as making solo music, Ashley is a member of the duo Ashley & Eli and the band Lake. Her music is very much at home within the underground, indie feel of the series and it amazes me to think that such an obscure artist, with a mere 800 listeners on her last.fm page, is heard daily by millions of children around the world. A free MP3 of Island Song can be downloaded 'here'.
If you're intrigued and want to watch Adventure Time, but don't have access to Cartoon Network then you can find full episodes 'here'. For those wanting to find out more about the series, I recommend the excellent Adventure Time Wiki.